OF THE alternative endings on offer at the MCG, only one held the prospect of a fairytale. That wasn't the one we got.
But whatever Hawthorn's victory lacked in romance or even suspense, for the fans all that mattered was the experience of something often more elusive in sport: redemption. After last year's tight loss to the Swans, it was much-needed, even if the 2012 premiers weren't on hand to add revenge to the afternoon's satisfying menu.
"It's about what happened last year," said lifelong Hawthorn supporter Paul Harvey at quarter- time. "If we win, it will be redemption for that."
Harvey has been to every Hawthorn grand final appearance since 1983, making yesterday's victory the seventh flag he has witnessed in person. He's also endured a couple of brutal losses in that 30-year span, and he wasn't ready for another one yesterday.
"I'm a gambling man," he said. "I've put my money where my mouth is. We'll win by eight goals."
Daniel Lloyd wasn't at last year's heartbreaker but felt the agony of that defeat just as keenly. Like Harvey, he offered just one word to describe what a victory would mean to him.
"Redemption." The alternative? "Heartbreak, mate. Heartbreak."
That was at half-time. At that point, the possibility of broken Hawks hearts two quarters hence seemed remote indeed. Their opponents, just 19 years old and showing it, had a soccer score on the board and a massacre looked on the cards. But Daniel Lloyd wasn't counting his chickens.
"They can still come back, and I think they will."
The Dockers fans were counting on it, though it was more a hope than an expectation. This was all new to them of course, and for some, just being there was enough.
Fan Anne, who with her two sisters had come across from Perth by bus - leaving Wednesday night, arriving Friday - to see her boys in the grand final after 19 years was a pinch- yourself moment. She's been a member since the day the club was founded.
"As far as I'm concerned just being here is enough. But I think they can come back," she said at half-time. Sure enough, the third quarter brought that Dockers surge and the cakewalk suddenly became a contest. The Hawthorn lead whittled away to a mere 10 points, three-quarter time was a time for silent prayers and a sense of dread for the Hawks faithful. Surely, not again.
They'd blown their advantage over the Swans a year ago. Perhaps steeled by the experience, it didn't take long in the final term for heaving Hawthorn hearts to start racing for one reason only - they could smell victory. This one was theirs.
And so it was, and so they roared and danced and laughed and cried and hugged.
One fan, who had been singing in the stands all day, may have been rendered speechless by the victory - he went silent, but celebrated with a victory jig up and down the concourse, the spring in his step and the joy in his eyes saying all that needed to be said.
For Harvey - having just witnessed his club's seventh conquering of the hallowed ground - it was a "bloody marvellous" moment. It healed the wounds of last year.
And how did it compare to those other six victories he had seen - the 2008 triumph over Geelong, and that famous run of flags under the guidance of club legend Allan Jeans, who coached the club to premierships in 1983, 1986, 1988, 1989 and 1991.
"It's never different. It's always good. Winning never changes and it's a bloody lot better than losing."